Leroy Hutson, Live Review (sort of)

The man, the legend

If I was told for whatever reason that I could only listen to the work of three artists for the rest of my life, I pretty much know who I’d plump for. I love soul music above all other things, but it wouldn’t be Marvin, Stevie, Aretha or any of those. Not Isaac, Donny, Tina Turner, or James Brown. It’d be Leroy Hutson, Milton Wright, and Alice Clark. My three favourite soul artists, hands down, and all for one major, overriding reason – which is that they did what they were born to do, they were amazing at it, but because of some weird cloud formation, or the inability of planets to align correctly they never got the plaudits they deserved. Well NEWSFLASH – I’m their plaudit, I’m their biggest plaudit, and you should be too.

Alice Clark I love because her 1972 self-titled album is the greatest pure soul album of all time (according to me), and it was also the only one she ever released. It didn’t propel her into the stratosphere, it didn’t even propel her near to it, but even so her version of I Keep It Hid by Jimmy Webb would be one of my Desert Island Discs. Milton Wright’s output was also pretty scarce at just two albums, but I rate Friends and Buddies from 1975 and Spaced from 1977 as two of the best dancefloor soul records ever made – somehow managing to blend folk, with soul, disco, Stevie style synths, and even a smattering of punk. He’s a genius. Who, apparently, now works as a judge.

And then there’s Leroy Hutson – easily the equal of Marvin Gaye, and definitely the biggest name out of the three. I’d take Leroy’s string of albums in the 1970s – Love Oh Love, The Man, Hutson, Feel The Spirit, Hutson II, Closer to The Source – above pretty much any other soul artist going at the time (which is really saying something!). In fact, factor in Unforgettable from 1979 and Paradise from 1982, and the guy never made a dud record.

The main point of this massive love-in is that I finally got to see Leroy Hutson in the flesh in February this year. He was playing at a booze-free church in North London, and it was truly a pleasure to see one of my all-time heroes doing his thing, performing live to like-minded folk who have also kept his secret so well hidden for all of these years. I looked around the holy hall, still boasting pews, and cold stone walls, and you could see that this was our equivalent of Stevie Wonder in Hyde Park, or Oasis at Knebworth, and as we all stooped on bended knee at the foot of one of our idols, one bloke took the opportunity to rush the stage to thank Leroy for the soundtrack to his life. I was right there with him.

Now to tick the other two off the list.

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